1807
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

La Ciriegia, an austere Imitation of Milton's L'Allegro.

The News (20 March 1807) 103.

Barron Field


A burlesque descriptive ode, signed "B. F." The target here is the Irish poet Andrew Cherry (1762-1812) whose dramatic pieces were acted at Drury Lane. More particularly, the target is Cherry's opera "The Travellers, or the Prince of China" which apparently had a particularly contorted plot: "And ever against eating cares, | Give me that BRAHAM'S fritter'd airs, | Married to CHERRY'S deathless verse, | In notes with many a twisting bout, | Of vag'bond heavings, long drawn out, | With sleepless practice and some cunning, | The nasal voice thro' mazes running." John Braham (1774?-1856) was the most notable singer of the day. But nist of "La Ciriegia" is devoted to a rather affectionate salute to the seedy life of the London theaters. The "two giggling brothers more" are the dramatists Frederick Reynolds (1764-1841) and Thomas John Dibdin (1771-1841).

The News was a weekly paper published on Sundays that devoted considerable attention to theater and the arts. It was edited by John Hunt; Leigh Hunt was among the contributors before he embarked on The Examiner.

William Hazlitt: "The NEWS is also an excellent paper — interspersed with historical and classical knowledge, written in a good taste, and with an excellent spirit. Its circulation is next, we believe, to that of the OBSERVER, which has twice as many murders, assaults, robberies, fires, accidents, offences, as any other paper, and sells proportionably" Edinburgh Review 38 (May 1823) 368.



Hence, loathed SHERIDAN,
Of envious Wit and stupid Humour born,
In Grub-street shop forlorn,
Midst grimed walls all narrow as sedan,
Find out some low book stall,
Where thumb-greas'd pamphlets spread their twop'ny pride,
And dusty death rules wide;
There amidst flameless grates, beneath a shelf
As empty as thyself,
With Nature and thy plays, die and — that's all.

But come thou sing-song poet CHERRY,
In Drury-lane yclep'd the Merry,
And by critics Merry-ANDREW,
Whom Impudence, with prophet-hand, drew,
With two giggling brothers more,
From shiv'ring at the prompter's door;
Or whether, as scene shifters sing,
The frolic Muse that joys the King,
Old Pantomime, with Punch's wife,
As he met her once (od's life)
There on bank of deal-board green,
With jealous lamp-oil spilt between,
Fill'd her with all you three, you asses,
Whose bray so loud in long-ear'd farce is.
Haste CHERRY, then, and bring with thee,
Buffoonery, Non-entity,
Nods and airs, contorted smiles,
Such as on Wapping Graces wait,
And love to live at Billingsgate;
Songs that the possible deride,
Setting the probable aside,
Come, and frisk it as you jumble,
With many a harlequin tumble,
And on your left leg kick from ye
That nurse of Wit, grim Poverty;
And, as you give the Dev'l his due,
Let Mister Conn be of your crew,
To live with him, and he with ye,
In unreproved pleasure free;
To hear the fiddles, in some fright,
Quav'ring the cat gut of first night,
From their alley in the pit,
Till the curtain endeth it;
Then to come in spite of NEWS,
And ask of wond'ring PEAKE your dues,
Thro' the box door of the lobby,
Swearing that private pique sha'n't fob ye.
While the chink, with lively din,
Scatters the rear of old-score thin,
And to some neighb'ring tavern door,
You stoutly strut the play'rs before.
Oft list'ning how the prompter's whistle
Transforms the scene from that to this hill,
Or startles you with hiss-like thrill,
Thro' the cloth-trees echoing shrill;
Sometimes walking, but unseen,
By the notch'd deal-board, daub'd with green,
Right against the trap-door's bait,
Where patent lamps draw up their state,
Giving the ground a deal of light,
While all the skies are left in night;
Then the gods all closely pack'd,
Whistle o'er the finish'd Act,
And many a cry resoundeth shrill,
"Ale or porter" — "book or bill"—
And every lover takes the labour
T' explain the plot to his fair neighbour.
Strait mine eye hath caught new pleasures,
While the circle round it measures,
Russet cits and tabbies grey,
Who seldom from their snug fires stray,
Fair ones on whose barren breast
Heads full as barren often rest,
Ladies trim with head-dress pied,
Shallow beaux, and gapers wide,
Gods and goddesses it sees,
Unbosom'd low in broad-strip'd frieze,
Where perhaps some beauty lies,
The Cynosure of sailors' eyes;
Hard by a dying lamp-wick smokes,
Annoying all the gall'ry folks,
Where Ben and Poll together met,
Are at their interlude meal set
Of nuts, plum-pudding, and hung-beef,
All tied in Belcher handkerchief;
And then in haste she gives the go-by
To her snug Ben, for snugger Toby,
Or if the earlier ev'ning suit
To turn a penny with some fruit.
Sometimes with secure delight
These upper gall'ries rule the night;
While the merry puns ring round,
And th' accustom'd jests rebound
From many a youth and many a maid,
In parts as stale as e'er were play'd;
And young and old come there to laugh,
If not at whole price yet at half,
Till the patent-lamps do fail;
Then for the cyder and the ale,
With stories told of many a feat,
How long-sleev'd clown the Banb'ries eat;—
He oft wish'd himself in bed,
And she was tir'd to death, she said;—
Tells how the Trav'llers all do sweat
Till in the fifth act duly met,
When in one night, near glimpse of morn,
Italians are in China born,
Who, by th' assistance of a Pat,
Talk English in a Turkish chat,
And five acts gone (or five blanks rather)
Find in an Englishman their father;
When, song-full, off the stage they fling,
Which is the best part of the thing.
Thus done the tales, at farce they peep,
With REYNOLDS' dose soon lull'd asleep;
Crowded stages please us then,
And the roar of chorus-men,
Where throngs of thieves, who cannot read,
A most harmonious concert breed;
With store of beasts, whose pasteboard thighs
So neatly mov'd contest the prize,
While sep'rate legs (or boys) contend
To win their smiles who all commend.
There let procession oft appear,
Where nothing but the voice is clear,
And pomp, and Gothic revelry
Mix'd up with Greek mythology;
Such sights as young hack-writers dream
When slumb'ring o'er th' unfinish'd ream.
Then to the other stage anon,
If DIBDIN'S patch-work sock be on,
And SHAKSPEARE, merely Nature's child,
Sing to the woods his wood-notes wild.
And ever against eating cares,
Give me that BRAHAM'S fritter'd airs,
Married to CHERRY'S deathless verse,
In notes with many a twisting bout,
Of vag'bond heavings, long drawn out,
With sleepless practice and some cunning,
The nasal voice thro' mazes running;
Rummaging all the harmony
Of manuscripts from Italy,
That BILLINGTON might heave her head
From golden slumbers, on a bed
Of feather four-foot deep, and hear
Such strains as would have shut the ear
Of centinels, nor once inspire a
Jot of grief for Zamphimira.

All this stuff, if thou canst give,
CHERRY, my boy, we'll let thee live.

[p. 103]